According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood, but only five percent of the population donates blood in any given year. The situation is similar in Alaska and it's causing a concern.
"With the exception of B-positive, we're in need of every other blood type and we're begging for O-negative," said Sarah Hardman, manager of the Kenai Peninsula Blood Bank of Alaska, located in the Maxi-Storage strip mall along the Kenai Spur Highway, just outside of Soldotna.
Hardman said Blood Bank of Alaska is in critical need of O-negative donors because there are zero units on the shelf statewide.
"We usually try to stock three days' worth," she said, so much is needed. However, Hardman said O-negative can be difficult to cache in large qualities because so few people have this blood type.
"It's one of the rare ones. Only seven out of every 100 people have O-negative. That's not much when you consider 40 out of every 100 have O-positive," she said.
Blood of all types is needed for emergencies, and some people also need regular blood transfusions to live with cancer, blood disorders, sickle cell anemia and other illnesses.
Complicating the situation of need is the fact that, while people with some blood types can receive more than one other blood type -- for example, people with AB can receive AB, AB-negative, A-positive, A-negative, B-positive, B-negative, O-positive and O-negative -- people with O-negative cannot.
"People with O-negative can only receive O-negative," Hardman said.
O-negative also is vital for emergency transfusions and baby recipients, she added.
Because of this immediate need, all O-negative donors are asked to visit a Blood Bank of Alaska or their mobile drive to donate. For people who don't know if they're O-negative, Hardman said blood-typing is part of the process for first-time donors.
"We request that people make appointments to donate because our staff here is minimal, but we won't turn away walk-ins," she said.
To give blood, donors must weigh at least 110 pounds, and be at least 17 year old, or 16 with parental permission. Donations can only be made every eight weeks.
For more information on giving blood or to make a life-saving appointment, call the Blood Bank of Alaska at 907-260-5672.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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